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The Informed Parent

Five Do’s That Always (Almost ) Work

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Aug. 06, 2007

Most of you know, or have heard, how important it is to make disciplinary statements in the positive. When you say to your youngsters “Please walk in the store,” it means to stop running, or hopping, or skipping. The positive statement tells your children what you want them to do--walk. “Don’t run in the store” leaves the door open for interpretation. And some children will always push that limit. They will skip or hop. When addressed, they will say, “But I’m not running“. Verbal exchanges like this drive parents crazy.

In human interactions nothing is 100 % guaranteed. Incorporating the following Do’s into your parenting will assure that most of the time you will achieve your goal.

Do Speak In A Firm Voice

When you want your children’s attention, use a voice that means business. It is far more effective than yelling. How many times have you yelled at your youngster only to have her continue to do what she is doing?

Sometimes parents believe that a calm, firm voice doesn’t work. They say, “I have to say something three or four times before my child responds.” If this sounds like you, begin listening to yourself. You will probably notice a different tone in your voice on the third or fourth try. Really hear that tone and use it the first time you make a request. It works!

The one time yelling is necessary is when your child is in danger. When this is the case, if you are not a constant yeller, the child will quickly respond.

Do Mean What You Say

The reason parents don’t get what they want from their children when they ask is that they don’t really mean what they say. Imagine that it’s nearly dinnertime. You ask your child to go and wash. If she doesn’t, you nag. But it is not until you are ready to put dinner on the table that you really mean for her to get busy and wash. Your tone means it.

Meaning what you say becomes especially important when there are consequences involved. Let’s say your middle school child has a project due, and she has been procrastinating. You lay down an ultimatum. “If your project is not finished by Saturday, you will not be able to attend the skate party.” If you cannot carry out what you have said, don’t say it. 

Do Follow-Through With Consequences

You have told your daughter that she cannot attend the skate party if she has not finished her project. If you are a parent who follows through on what you say it is certain that she will have the project finished. If you are not that parent, there is only a fifty-fifty chance that it will get done. Your daughter is willing to take the risk that this time you don’t really mean she cannot go. Surely you will feel bad and back down.

When parents follow-through with the consequences that have been laid out, they can rest assured that whatever is asked will more than likely be done. If it is not, experiencing the consequences is less noxious than the task at hand. No one can be consistent 100% of the time. Aim for that, and you’ll probably hit 85%. This tells your youngster that you follow-through.

Do Play

Sometimes it seems like you just don’t have the energy to play with your kids. Find time each day, though. Play for at least 15 minutes. If you can work in more time, all the better. Kids love to play with their parents. Whether it is a board game, playing ball, reading together, or participating in make-believe, parents who regularly play with their children find that they respond better to required tasks that aren’t much fun. Parents who know how to play are not seen as one-dimensional. They are not just “the boss“. They know how to give and take. They know how to let down their hair and have fun.

Do Communicate

Learning to communicate effectively may be the most powerful parenting skill you can develop. Each of the four “Do’s” we have already talked about are part of communication. It is important to include in your repertoire of skills the ability to listen effectively and to paraphrase what you have heard. Providing time for communication in mandatory. Parents who have learned to communicate with their children at each developmental stage experience far fewer struggles with their offspring.

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